Carrying your cross…opens the door to DEEPER love and MORE joy!
Part of today’s Gospel is used by some people to show that the Bible is foolish, and religion doesn’t make sense: “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife…”, etc.
However, some of those same people (and ourselves at times), also “hate” our father, mother, wife, etc. by our pursuit of football, drugs, sex, money and the goals of “my life”. “Hate” in this context – and the normal meaning in times past – is about our priorities.
Jesus is simply saying, keep God first in all our decision making. Jesus is not saying to ignore the needs of our father, mother, etc. But, rather, to use God’s Wisdom in solving all our issues.
Hence, the expression: WWJD = What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus then follows up with two stories to illustrate this teaching:
1) building: don’t be foolish in what we think we can do, expecting God to finish for us;
Although I’m an Oblate, I love the expression of St Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits): “Pray as though everything depends on God, but work as though everything depends on you!”
2) being the boss: are we marching against another King? Is God the other King?
Let us discern well whether God is more powerful than us, and work out a “deal” with God so we can live a peaceful and happy life.
Jesus also makes a statement that is not very inspiring or encouraging in it’s plain form: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI (2-Sep-2019), explains it this way: “the more sensitive you become, the more pain will seep into your life. We catch the connection then. A sensitive person suffers more deeply, just as they also drink in more deeply the joys and beauties of life.”
Our cross becomes heavier as we grow older, weaker, wiser and more sensitive (hopefully!). Let us consider, also: this Gospel passage was deliberately joined to the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom and a poem from the lips of King Solomon.
Being the speaker King Solomon, as the wisest of all the Kings, gives power to the words. The key phrase is: “The reasoning’s of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable;”
It reflects how our feelings and ideas keep changing from month to month or year by year, according to our experiences and what “new” opportunities we are offered.
And this constant changing can end up destroying our lives: part of the Cross is to endure & persevere in our chosen directions in life until, and unless, they are self-evidently a dead-end.
For example, a man marries a woman (or vice-versa), and after a few years decides it’s too difficult: either “she’s the problem,” “I just want my freedom back!”, or “I no longer love her.”
Assuming domestic violence is not an issue, if we change we can end up losing out on the future joys of married life (pride in our grown up children, grandchildren, etc.), as well as the present joys of being necessary and needed by my wife and children: taking pride in their achievements, feeling needed (if not loved!) as the children respond to our discipline, etc.
If married life is not enjoyable, it could be because we have stopped investing in it, and started chasing “my dreams”, rather than “our dreams”.
Last week we were encouraged to be humble, and that is a cross in itself, as we restrain ourselves to ensure others are given equal “air-time”. I encourage us to reflect deeply on this passage from Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Rebuilding Russia: Reflections and Tentative Proposals):
“Human rights’ are a fine thing, but how can we make ourselves sure that our rights do not expand at the expense of the rights of others. A society with unlimited rights is incapable of standing to adversity. If we do not wish to be ruled by a coercive authority, then each of us must rein himself in… A stable society is achieved not by balancing opposing forces but by conscious self-limitation: by the principle that we are always duty-bound to defer to the sense of moral justice.”
Here we see the Gospel and First Reading coming into focus: unlimited rights means putting ourselves first and others (God) second or third. Moral Justice means not following every idea we “feel”, but always considering what God thinks. WWJD?
God bless you as we all try to rein ourselves in: check in with the Divine, FIRST, for everything we plan, so we can BETTER look after our father, mother, brother, sister.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI